May 05, 2014

Jeter falls below the Kozma Line

I never jumped on the Yankees tout bandwagon for this year. Beyond knowing that their big four of free agent signings — Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran and Jacoby Ellsbury at the plate and Masahiro Tanaka on the mound — all had to do well, even as Ellsbury came off a career year and we all knew Beltran is aging, I knew that the Bombers had to have two other things go right. McCann's been struggling all around so far, Beltran's got a low BA and OBP but is still hitting for power, and Ellsbury's done as well as a year ago if not better. We all know what Tanaka's doing. So, overall, not bad on the free agent market; in fact, probably about as well as could reasonably be expected.

But, to go anywhere after September, the Yankees needed two holdovers to do something, too.

First, CC Sabathia, slimmed-down and all, had to, at least, not lose more velocity on his fastball. Well, we see how that's turned out.

Second, The Cap'n, Derek Jeter, had to be some semblance of his 2012 self. And, since he can't hit a fastball anymore, he's officially fallen below the Kozma Line, the sabermetric version of the Mendoza Line honoring Pete Kozma instead of Mario Mendoza and his struggles to bat more than .200.

Not only is Jeter below a .600 OPS, thus officially being below the Kozma Line, his isolated slugging is worse than last year. He still hasn't hit a home run. Now, The Capn's defenders will say "too small of a sample size."

Really? Our sample size is half again as big as last year's broken-ankle season. And, as part of failing to be able to hit any fastball much above Jamie Moyer speed (or should I say CC speed?), Jeter's already struck out twice as much as last year. He's likely guessing more and more on pitches, leaving himself vulnerable. If it's any small consolation, he's no worse a fielder than last year, at least.

That said, he's officially below replacement level, and isn't likely to get above it before the end of the year. And, his 2012 season is looking more and more like a fluke; Fangraphs appears to confirm that, noting that Jeter had a definite jump that year on batting average on balls in play.

And, I'm not alone. Joel Sherman writes that Joe Girardi will have no problem pointing out a spot on the bench.

That said, two days later, now he's above the Kozma Line again. But, I think this wasn't just a short-term swoon. Major bat-speed loss on fastballs is not a short-term issue. Stay tuned.

So, ankle aside, Jeter made the smart move to retire this year.

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